Even though the calendar indicated spring, ice still floated on the river. Although a few days had been warmer this particular morning was cold and brisk. The weather was right for maple sap to flow, below freezing at night and into the 40s or 50s during the day.
Our guide led us through the sugar bush, pointing out maple trees that were suitable for tapping. Since this particular area is set up for educational purposes there were a variety of collection types – wooden buckets, metal buckets with lids, plastic bags, and tubing systems were all represented.
E had a chance to demonstrate how children used yokes to balance the buckets of sap. I can only imagine what hard work it would have been to collect enough sap to make syrup. It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup and I’m sure any farm children working in the sugar bushes wanted to make sure every drop was turned into either syrup or sugar.
The kettle over the fire has been replaced by a more modern evaporator system, but finding the exact consistency seems to remain an art.
One of the talking points I found interesting was that maple sugar was a “free trade” sort of product at one time. The cane sugars exported from the Caribbean almost always used slave labor, therefore maple sugar was the preferred sweetener of abolitionists.
Even though we’ve been on this sort of tour before it had been a few years. Too often we think that because we’ve done something once it isn’t worth doing again, but I frequently find the kids are processing things on a new level or at least challenging themselves to remember their past experience.
Special thanks to the Cleveland Metroparks and Rocky River Reservation for offering this tour and to NEST Homeschool group for organizing our group outing.